You, The Social Worker
You are the client, living in and exploring the dynamics of this community.
You have recently moved to Riverton, social work degree in hand, and purchased a home in a neighborhood known as Alvadora, a 40-block square on the west side of town, consisting of newer homes (less than 20 years old) populated largely by working-class families. You are thrilled because the house is close to your job, and the Alvadora Community Mental Health Center is one of five areas that belong to the Riverton Neighborhood Association (see the Town Map for the other four, and their boundaries).
Riverton is a city of about 100,000 people, located somewhere In the Midwest. The citizens here are proud of their city: its center is bustling with independently-owned businesses, a highly regarded art museum, and quite a few restaurants.
Over the years, residents have acquiesced to requests from the city and state for raises in the property tax levy, particularly when those raises are tied to public school improvements and the expansion or improvement of green spaces. As a result, the public education system is regarded as one of the best in the region, and beautifully kept green spaces dot many of the neighborhoods.
Riverton’s population is fairly balanced along the income spectrum. About 15 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, a figure several percentage points above the national average. However, real median income mirrors almost exactly the national median (app. $48,000-$49,000).
About 15 miles outside the city limit is the River coal-fired power plant. The plant is both a major employer and a major supplier of energy for the rest of the state. Despite vigorous opposition to its existence (such plants are major producers of carbon dioxide, and a threat to public health), plant operation continues unabated. Another major employer is a very large over-the-road trucking company, Magenta Freight Line. Retail furniture and clothing manufacturing and sales concerns constitute other important business sectors.
Another distinction held by Riverton is the speed with which it is likely to become a “majority-minority” city. Approximately sixty percent of its citizens are white, but in the last decade the Latino/a and African-American populations have each doubled in size (the former to 10 percent, the latter to 18 percent).
Not surprisingly, the citizens of Riverton and their city have suffered significantly in the recent economic downturn. Home property values have plummeted, and many who cannot afford their mortgages have been forced into “short sales” (a “short sale” is the sale of property for less than what is owed on it by the seller). The fall in property values has led to a fall in revenues for the city and, as a result, community services have seen their budgets reduced, even as the need for the services has grown. Unemployment has risen, and even the securely-employed have stopped spending as freely as they used to, putting significant strain on the small businesses in the area (in fact, quite a few have closed).
After moving in, you noticed a big problem: empty liquor bottles and beer cans, strewn all over your yard and your neighbors’, requiring a daily clean-up operation by all the property owners on your street and surrounding areas. In fact, the consumers of all this alcohol--persons who often take refuge at the local homeless shelter-- have found your neighborhood to be a convenient “rest stop.” Not only do they throw empty bottles and cans on the lawns, but they also use the bushes to relieve themselves. The problem has gotten out of control, your neighbors are very upset, and your supervisor has asked you to engage the community to come up with a workable solution. In the last place you lived, community members faced with a similar concern asked their City Commission to establish an alcohol impact zone. You realize that you need to learn more about this.
- Find a solution to the problem of public intoxication and its consequences in your neighborhood. Do you know about what other communities have done? If you do not know about alcohol impact zones, look for information on the world wide web, or ask specialists in your community.
- Implement your solution using your systems knowledge of the problem (i.e. factors that contribute to its presence), your professional engagement skills, and the Code of Ethics to guide your decision-making.
Review the community sociogram.
Critical Thinking Questions
These core questions, specific to each client, will help you better understand and assess your client. Refer back to your answers throughout your assessment.